Scabies is a skin disease that is characterized by severe itching (especially at night).
It is caused by mites. They are tiny arachnids that live in the upper layers of the human skin. The female scabies mite burrows its way into the horny layer of the skin and lays its eggs there, from which the larvae then hatch. These make their way through the duct to the surface, where they mature into fully developed mites. Their excrements and the carcasses of decomposing mites cause severe itching, which is particularly noticeable at night. Itchy papules and pustules appear on the skin, especially in places where the skin is thin and where it is warm (e.g. finger gaps, wrists, area around the nipples, elbows, knees, inguinal and genital region).
Transmission of mites occurs mainly through direct skin contact, for example during sex. Sometimes the infection is also transmitted by sharing beds, towels or clothes. Cramped living conditions and lack of hygiene help the spread of mites, but scabies also occurs under good hygienic conditions.
Protecting yourself from scabies is difficult. Even the transmission of a single female mite can be enough to start the disease. Physical contact with people suffering from scabies should therefore be avoided.
Diagnosis and treatment
Scabies becomes mainly apparent through itching. Papules and pustules, scratch marks and mite ducts are not always immediately visible.
Treatment is simple and effective. With a chemical agent in form of a cream or lotion the mites on the skin surface are killed. Since the animals are quite resilient, the agent has to remain on the skin for a while. Depending on the compound, the treatment is repeated once or twice.
After proper treatment, the actual scabies is now healed, but in many cases the red, itchy rash continues for several days. Anyone who has had physical contact with the infected person should also be treated, beacuse it is easily possible that they, too, have scabies mites on their skin. Clothes and bed linen should be washed at a minimum of 60° C. Delicate clothes and items such as stuffed animals can be packed in a plastic bag for 14 days to starve the mites, and freezing is also a possibility. Vacuum clean or dry-clean upholstered furniture and beds several times.